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Art Therapy: Just Too Dangerous

Based on a study that cites such potential dangers as the “sharp edges” on scissors and “toxic chemicals” in glue, state lawmakers in Virginia are on their way to approving a new licensing law to cover art therapists.

There is no word on whether kindergartners will continue to be allowed to use these tools that, in the hands of unlicensed adults, apparently constitute a risk to public safety.

The Virginia state Senate voted unanimously this week to approve the legislation, sending the bill to the state Assembly for further consideration. The bill would create a new license for art therapists, but it is largely silent on the requirements for obtaining such a license. Instead, the legislature intends to offload those details to a newly created board—a board that will be staffed primarily by practicing art therapists.

That’s a common practice when it comes to licensing laws. It’s also one of the primary reasons why occupational licensing limits job opportunities. Boards that are controlled by members of the industry they are supposed to regulate frequently become anti-competitive cartels more interested in limiting who can do certain types of work. The most egregious example is probably Louisiana’s ridiculous florist licensing board.

Art therapy is no more dangerous than arranging flowers. It’s a growing practice—one that is, sadly, already licensed in some form by 12 other states—that incorporates psychotherapy with artistic media, usually by having patients express themselves through art. Practitioners say it can help individuals cope with stress and keep mental disorders under control.

Should that require a permission slip from the government?

No, Protectionism for art therapists and a windfall for a couple of universities that train these folks is a bad reason to limit opportunities for all Virginians. And excessive licensing is no joke. One study has found that licensing laws across all 50 states resulted in 2.85 million fewer jobs and cost consumers more than $200 billion annually.

The real motivation behind licensing laws like this has nothing to do with the potential dangers of scissors and glue, of course. It’s all about capturing a segment of the economy, and in that regard the Virginia proposal would be quite effective. The real threat to the public is not unlicensed art therapists with merely an undergrad degree wielding scissors and glue. It’s state lawmakers crafting anti-competitive policies without regard for common sense.

Licensing Boards no matter your feelings can hold enormous power. They can strip a living away from an individual, they can fine and suspend. Do not take them lightly. Should you need help reach out to Goldfinch Winslow and let us help you through this treacherous process.

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